Einstein and Wittgenstein

Einstein and Wittgenstein

In Philosophical Remarks, composed in the late 1920s, Wittgenstein several times enunciates a verificationist principle, which was not present in the Tractatus. It is plausible that the Vienna Circle, with whom Wittgenstein met several times during this period, derived the verifiability theory of meaning from these interactions with him (not from the earlier Tractatus). On page 200 of Philosophical Remarks, we read the following: “How a proposition is verified is what it says…The verification is not one token of the truth, it is the sense of the proposition. (Einstein: How a magnitude is measured is what it is.)” Clearly, Wittgenstein is drawing a connection between Einstein’s physics and his own verificationism, and thus with the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle. He is surely right to do so. It is true that Wittgenstein did not repeat this kind of verificationism in his later work (notably Philosophical Investigations), but this is a striking historical moment. Einstein and Wittgenstein on the same positivist page.

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